Conservative media have rallied behind Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political activist known for her toxic anti-Islam rhetoric after Brandeis University cancelled plans to grant her an honorary degree. Right-wing media have painted Hirsi Ali as a champion for women's rights, but instead appear to use her views on gender as a rhetorical gateway to attack the religion of Islam and highlight Hirsi Ali's view that Islam is a religion of violence and a "cult of death."
On April 8, Brandeis University announced that it would reverse course in awarding an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) known for her critical views of Islam. The New York Times reported that while Brandeis has invited Hirsi Ali to speak, it could not "overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with" its values, labeling her past statements as the reason it revoked the degree.
Since the announcement, conservative media figures have rushed to defend Hirsi Ali, some using her life experience to explain away her Islamophobic comments. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the move an "example of a war on women" and argued that the university had "caved to Muslim thugs." Fox News' Sean Hannity said the university's decision was an "example of left-wing appeasement." On April 10, Fox contributor Monica Crowley asked, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Where are people who, like Ali, have left the faith and are willing to courageously speak about it? And yet when somebody does show the guts and gets out there to do it, this is how they're treated?"
But Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam -- once referring to the religion as "a destructive nihilistic cult of death" in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also "advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that 'violence is inherent in Islam' and that 'Islam is the new fascism'." In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.
Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not "associating Islam with extremism." In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam "is at war with America" and wrote that Western civilization "needs to be actively defended" against Islam.
Although Hirsi Ali has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights, her narrative that violence and misogyny are inherent to the religion of Islam is problematic, but it is also what has recently propelled her into the conservative media spotlight. Right-wing outlets such as Fox have been notorious for amplifying Islamophobic voices in an effort to spread fear that Muslims are 'taking over,' while pushing the idea that Islam is adverse to Western values.
Conservative media have greatly enabled anti-Islam propaganda, and have had a significant role in propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion and is therefore something the United States must fight against. On April 9, Fox host Andrea Tantaros exemplified this when she defended Hirsi Ali by arguing "we are" at war with radical Islam because "they are going to kill us, as the Qur'an states according to Bernard Lewis and many other scholars, they're going to kill us, Sean, until we are all Muslims or ruled by Muslims."
Fox and other conservative voices such as Pamela Geller, Zuhdi Jasser, and the National Review use figures like Hirsi Ali to boost their own anti-Islamic positions as legitimate, giving them cover to continue spreading anti-Muslim hate. Conservative media's rush to uphold Hirsi Ali's story is therefore much more a defense of their own Islamophobic narratives than of Hirsi Ali herself.
Violence against women in any form is a serious issue in many societies, and to limit the discussion by portraying it as a problem specific to the Muslim community, while dehumanizing an entire faith, is irresponsible, inimical to the cause of women's rights, and it is Islamophobic.
As Evelyn Alsultany, author of Arabs And Muslims in the Media and associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Media Matters, Hirsi Ali "has not promoted any kind of true understanding of Islam, but has provided justification for the public and the government to perpetuate racism." Alsultanty explains further:
While she has brought attention to oppression that some Muslim women face, she has done so by simplistically blaming Islam. As a result, she has powerfully contributed to naturalizing the idea that Islam in and of itself is the enemy of democracy and civilization. This idea has serious consequences. It has led to Muslims in the West facing a spectrum of experiences, from hostile questions about their faith to hate crimes. It has provided justification for the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, that has negatively impacted the lives of Muslim women through war.
Communications director to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ibrahim Hooper similarly pointed out that Hirsi Ali's rhetoric hijacks legitimate issues and "demonizes Islam." As Alsultany concludes, "we need to find a way to discuss a serious problem -- violence against women in a way that does not present the problem as exclusive to Muslim women."
Fox News attacked Denver public schools by claiming they were hiring "illegal alien" teachers who are unqualified to teach. But the teachers in question have legal status to work in the U.S., have an alternative license to teach from the state of Colorado, and are working toward being fully licensed.
In a stunning exercise in false equivalence, Fox News accused CBS News of maintaining a disciplinary double standard after it suspended correspondent Lara Logan for her botched 60 Minutes Benghazi report but continues to employ an analyst that Fox erroneously suggested was part of a Benghazi talking points conspiracy to provide political cover to President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On April 2, according to ABC News, former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell testified again before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News used today's hearing as a launching point to spin its latest already-debunked Benghazi conspiracy, hosting Lt. Tony Schaffer on the April 2 edition of Fox & Friends to push allegations that Morell deliberately omitted the truth about the Benghazi attacks from talking points later used by the administration in return for a consulting position with a firm ostensibly close to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Fox used the trumped up allegation to call for Morell's suspension from his position as an analyst for CBS, citing suspended CBS correspondent Lara Logan's botched and retracted 60 Minutes Benghazi report as a comparison. Fox co-host Steve Doocy accused CBS of maintaining a "crazy double standard" for disciplining Logan but not Morell:
DOOCY: Also what's interesting is Mike Morell also works for CBS. He's a consultant. Lara Logan, as you will recall, was fired or suspended from 60 Minutes for simply interviewing somebody who told a story that was not accurate.
Mike Morell is a consultant an analyst on CBS and it looks like he lied to congress. It looks like CBS has got a crazy double standard.
Doocy's attempt to equate a Fox conspiracy theory about Morell's actions and motivations with Logan's now-infamous breaches of ethics and journalistic standards is staggering, as the two circumstances bear no resemblance. The allegations against Morrell have been repeatedly debunked, while Logan's 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that featured questionable source, Dylan Davies, whose credibility has since crumbled, led to an internal investigation resulting in the retraction of the report, an apology from Logan, and the subsequent leave of absence of Logan and her producer, Max McClellan.
Determined to undermine positive news about successful enrollment in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, Fox News drastically downplayed the number of previously uninsured Americans who have gained coverage through the ACA.
From the March 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski highlighted the need for a "national conversation" on the gender wage gap and called on Republicans to either "come to the table" on the issue or "be quiet." Such a turnaround will be difficult while Fox News remains the communications arm of the GOP, as the network has consistently perpetuated sexist rhetoric and dismissed workplace inequality as a "myth" not worth covering.
A recent report from the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) found that, one year out of college, women on average are paid just 82 percent of what men make and noted that the gap tends to grow over time. According to the report, this discrepancy between men and women's earnings has not improved in the past decade. A 2012 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained that "[w]omen's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations -- whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women." As Think Progress has reported, women make less than their male peers regardless of their education level, industry, job, or location.
Brzezinski stressed the necessity of promoting a "national conversation" to address these issues, but Fox News and other conservative media have already hijacked the conversation and are undermining the possibility of open debate. Fox's Bill O'Reilly refused to acknowledge the pay gap as a real issue and questioned the point of disucssing it, while Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly attempted to debunk what he describes as "gender myths" like the pay gap. Radio host Rush Limbaugh has dismissed arguments about the pay gap as "tripe" and claimed that wages are only stagnant for people who "don't do good work."
Though Brzezinski noted that the gender wage gap discussion is "rife with so many ways the Republican Party could really help address some of the issues," Republicans face a major hurdle in engaging with such issues while Fox News remains the GOP's communications arm.
Continuing a pattern of romanticizing economic hardships that limit employee choice and force workers to put in long hours for low pay, right-wing media have claimed that expanding overtime compensation for salaried workers undermines work ethic by changing "the notion of hard work."
Right-wing media were quick to attack President Obama's new plan to alter Labor Department pay requirements to expand the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime. Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck warned that this move "undercuts work ethic," and co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed, encouraging viewers to weigh in on the "new American work ethic" and how the plan is "discouraging those, it seems, that want to work more to get further along, with these new rules."
On the March 12 edition of Fox Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Fox host Martha MacCallum similarly warned that workers would be forced into "an hourly wage category," which she said, gives employees "a whole different mentality." The Wall Street Journal lamented the change in a March 12 editorial:
The rules will particularly harm workers who want to climb the economic ladder by going the extra mile for their employers and demonstrating why they deserve promotion. Now many businesses will tell employees with ambition they can't work long hours.
Fox & Friends also ran an on-air graphic on March 13 that read, "The New American Way: New Rule Seems To Change The Notion Of Hard Work."
These reflexive attacks highlight conservative media's tendency to denounce proposals designed to benefit workers by romanticizing economic hardship. Conservative outlets like Fox News have previously commended the "uniquely American" desire to "work more, work harder" and take on "two and three jobs to make ends meet" as something that is being undermined by policies that offer workers more flexibility.
Fox reported that a new survey found that a small number of previously uninsured people have enrolled for health coverage on the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) online exchanges, but failed to report the cause: that many people who have avoided enrolling because of cost concerns were misinformed about the costs.
On the March 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped new information that she said shows "big problems with Obamacare." MacCallum cited a March 6 McKinsey & Company survey to report that one in 10 previously uninsured individuals who qualify for ACA coverage have signed up through the exchanges.
This framing hides crucial elements of the survey, which highlighted misinformation about the ACA as a key reason that potential beneficiaries chose not to enroll. According to McKinsey, the "most common reason for not enrolling cited by both previously insured and previously uninsured respondents continues to be perceived affordability challenges, "and for most of those respondents, that perception was based on insufficient information. From McKinsey:
Over 80 percent of the respondents who cited affordability as the reason for not enrolling are eligible for subsidies; 66 percent of these consumers were not aware of their subsidy eligibility status or subsidy amount.
Furthermore, the survey showed a positive trend in enrollment numbers, which have "continued to increase, particularly among the previously uninsured."
It's not surprising that Fox hid Mckinsey's findings about the negative impact that misinformation can have on Americans' willingness to enroll in ACA coverage, since the network has consistently worked to stoke fears about the costs of ACA coverage. Meanwhile, this is not the first time the network has shamelessly twisted or cherry-picked a McKinsey survey to baselessly smear Democratic policies.
From the March 2 edition of Fox Broadcasting Network's Fox News Sunday.
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Fox News has repeatedly made the false claim that liberal states lose billions of dollars due to tax flight, but tax flight is a well-debunked myth, and the most recent study Fox cited only showed that income tax and state-to-state migration were correlated factors.
Comedian Stephen Colbert lambasted right-wing media for asking whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "too old" to run for president in 2016, observing that John McCain and Ronald Reagan were each older when they ran for president than Clinton will be if she decides to enter the 2016 race.
On the February 26 edition of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert highlighted the recent attacks on Hillary Clinton's age by outlets like Fox News. He stated, "That's right. Fox news is ready to project that in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton will be two years older. I mean, come on! ... I mean 69? That is old. Like old old. Way too old to be president. I mean she's gonna be almost as old as Reagan was."
Colbert ended his report suggesting that discussing a woman's age to smear her as a political candidate amounts to questionable journalism, quipping,"I know it's rude to talk about a woman's age, but that's not what I am doing. I am talking about other people talking about people talking about other people talking about a women's age. That's called journalism":
Fox News attacked Vice President Joe Biden for accurately explaining how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps free women from job lock and grants them greater independence and choice.
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and guest Crystal Wright from ConservativeBlackChick.com launched a scathing attack on Biden, calling his remarks on the ACA and women "ridiculous" and "demeaning." Wright argued that Biden "put women in stereotypes," while claiming that Republicans "give women a choice ... you can be a career woman, you can be a stay-at-home mom."
But even the clip of Biden's statement made on the February 25 edition of ABC's The View played during the Fox & Friends segment accurately demonstrated that his remarks referred to women's increased ability to choose their employment status because the ACA will reduce job lock. Biden noted that this will give women the ability, if they choose, to leave their jobs for other opportunities because they will not be dependent on the health care provided by that job:
BIDEN: This is about freedom. How many of you are single women, with children, in a dead-end job, you're there because of your health insurance? You would rather have the opportunity to spend the next couple years with your child until they get -- if that was your choice -- until they get into primary school. You're now trapped in that job because if you leave, you lose your health insurance. Now, you'll be able to do -- make an independent choice. Do you want to stay in that job and still have health insurance? Or do you want to stay in that job even though you can get health insurance absent that job? And it gives women a great deal more freedom.
The New York Times explains that job lock occurs "when people stay in jobs they dislike, or don't want, solely to keep their health coverage. A Harvard Business School study in 2008 estimated that 11 million workers are affected by this dilemma. Other studies show that when people don't have to worry about health insurance, they are up to 25 percent more likely to change jobs."
Though Hasselbeck contended that women don't "just work for the free health insurance," this ignores the 11 million workers who do, in fact, face this dilemma. The reduction in job lock enabled by the health care law will allow greater freedom and choice not only for women but for everyone in the labor force.
While Fox has repeatedly derided the reduction of job lock due to the ACA, economists praise the benefits; as The New York Times noted, the labor force can now "allocate itself more efficiently," and reducing job lock will help spur entrepreneurship. The Congressional Budget Office also reported that the reduction of job lock will increase short-term opportunity for the unemployed, and will help stimulate economic growth.
Fox News has repeatedly hosted members of the fringe group Clarion Project, an anti-Muslim organization known for spreading Islamophobic fears, to discuss serious national security matters.
On February 20, Fox News hosted Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst from the Clarion Project, also known as the Clarion Fund, to discuss possible security threats on airlines. Mauro has recently appeared on Fox several times where he has argued that 'Muslim patrols' were a growing security concern for the United States, discussed the possibility of an anti-American alliance in the Middle East with Syrian Jihadists, and hyped fears that Somali refugees in the United States were becoming 'homegrown' terrorists.
But Mauro and other Clarion Project members are not credible sources to discuss issues such as these given their virulent history of Islamophobia. Clarion Project has been widely criticized for producing and spreading Islamophobic material including the movie, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, a film that depicted Muslims as terrorists seeking world conquest. Think Progress reported that this was only the first installment of "Clarion's ongoing production of Islamophobic films."
Mauro himself has penned numerous pieces for the anti-Islam blog Islamist Watch where he has tracked his progress in identifying "Muslim enclaves" in the United States that he says will become "'no-go zones' where governments admit to having little authority over Muslims living there" :
The construction of the building blocks for similar Muslim enclaves and "no-go zones" in the U.S. is one of the most disturbing programs of Islamist groups. If successful, these territories will be the first to establish Shari'a law in the country, thus offering a profound challenge to America's constitutional order.
Other board members from the Clarion Project who have also made their way onto Fox include Frank Gaffney, one of America's most notorious Islamophobes and Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Zuhdi Jasser. Gaffney has used funding for his Center for Security Policy to produce reports promoting the baseless myth that Muslims are conspiring to implement Sharia law in the United States.
According to a Center for American Progress report, the Clarion Project is funded by three of the seven top anti-Islam and anti-Muslim think tanks and organizations in the United States, including the Donors Capital Fund, Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust, and Anchorage Charitable Foundation and William Rosenwal Family Fund. The Center for American Progress describes these donors as the "lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America," and the report tracks how these donors use their money to support groups like the Clarion Project to "spread a deliberately misleading messages about Islam and Muslims that is fundamentally antithetical to our nation's foundation and principals of religious freedom."
Fox host Brian Kilmeade is worried. Worried that President Obama's move to increase wages for some federal workers could lead to ... higher wages for workers?
Kilmeade's concern comes as Obama, in response to congressional inaction on raising the minimum wage, pursues executive action that will boost wages for federally contracted workers to a minimum of $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2015. The action will only apply to newly contracted workers.
Discussing the president's action on the February 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned of a "ripple effect" that could occur if other "start demanding raises."
KILMEADE: And how is this going to affect business? Just think about this real quick, if you want to get - elevate everybody's minimum wage to $10.10 from $7 and something else, you have to say to yourself, those people who are making $2 above minimum wage, whatever it was, they're going to go "excuse me, could I have a raise? Because the whole country have a raise?" And then you got to ask every business owner, "can you handle that? Will it affect hiring?" So there's going to be a ripple effect. But the president's trying to show that he's not going to be hamstrung by a legislature that does not get along.
JOHNSON JR.: You're absolutely right, in the wake of bad job creation numbers over the last few days, the President is saying, "I'm for the working man and working woman in this country" although, it really won't have much effect at all. "I'm trying to send a signal," as Brian says, that "I'm the guy, I'm you're guy, I'm for you, let's stop income disparity in this country."
Kilmeade's concern trolling over whether increased wages will "affect hiring" is a canard. Economists say raising the minimum wage will help stimulate the economy while benefiting millions of workers.
In an open letter to Obama and congressional leaders, over 600 economists agreed that an increase would not negatively impact employment and could even have a "small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth." The economists further highlighted the fact that a national minimum wage increase would cause a dramatic "spillover" effect that would boost compensation for millions "as employers adjust their internal wage ladders," and, unlike Fox, noted that this is beneficial to the economy. From the open letter (emphasis added):
This policy would directly provide higher wages for close to 17 million workers by 2016. Furthermore, another 11 million workers whose wages are just above the new minimum would likely see a wage increase through "spillover" effects, as employers adjust their internal wage ladders. The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet. At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
Economic experts at The Economic Policy Institute have called Obama's executive order "a good first step" toward improving wages for American workers and have repeatedly called on Obama to take this action to "insure that taxpayer funds are not used to create an ever larger workforce that is unable to escape poverty and support a decent standard of living."
Right-wing media jumped to defend businesses' right to game the system and fire employees merely to avoid the obligation of providing them with health insurance.
On February 10 the IRS announced that it would delay the health insurance employer mandate for medium-sized businesses employing between 50 and 99 people until 2016. Smaller businesses -- those with 49 employees or fewer -- are not required to provide all workers with health insurance. To prevent employers from simply firing workers in order to avoid the obligation to provide health coverage in the next couple years, the IRS included a safeguard: If these businesses fire workers, they must show they did so for "bona fide business reasons" in order to be eligible for the delayed mandate.
In other words, as Washington Post's Wonkblog explained, "'It's simply so they don't game the system,' one senior administration official told reporters on a phone call this afternoon. 'They have to certify they're not doing that and not dropping their coverage.'"
Preventing employers from firing workers merely in order to game the system may seem like common sense, but not to conservative media. Outlets like Fox News immediately lambasted the safeguard as "Orwellian," while The Wall Street Journal blamed the health care law for forcing businesses to fire employees:
Either Obamacare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.
On the February 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File, Fox News' Megyn Kelly scoffed at the idea that employers shouldn't be permitted to fire workers merely to avoid giving them health insurance:
KELLY: That is the government telling you, employers, 'you will not fire a single person, you will not lay off a single person if you want to take advantage of our gift, and you have to certify under penalty of perjury to the IRS that you didn't do that, that no layoff was due to Obamacare.'
Wow, so now, if a small business employer wants to lay off a person under pain of perjury he has to convince people at the IRS that he's not doing it because of Obamacare.